In the northeastern Ohio region served by the Akron Cleveland Association of REALTORS® (ACAR), about two dozen municipalities require point-of-sale (POS) inspections for every property transfer. Many of these require that an escrow amount for between 100%-150% of identified repair costs be deposited and held by the City while the repairs are being conducted. Added to the actual cost of the repairs, down-payment and other closing expenses, this can put otherwise affordable housing purchases beyond the reach of would-be homeowners, and dampens the market for sellers, as well. The local REALTORS® have been working for years to roll back these mandates as unfair barriers to homeownership and a detriment to local housing markets. Consumer Advocacy Outreach Grants from the REALTOR Party are helping the cause.
Jamie McMillen, ACAR’s Vice President of Government Affairs, notes that although the issue is not new, it has evolved and taken on an added sense of injustice: “Today’s market is extremely complex, with limited inventory and high prices, and the unnecessary regulatory fees are shutting some people out of the market, whether buying or selling,” she explains. “In the past, we talked about how this is simply not good policy, but in recent years, in light of the great racial disparity in homeownership, we realize that we need to take a closer look at who is impacted by this policy. Our most recent campaign was devised to address the gap, and make it clear to the public and to decision makers that it’s the low and moderate-income households being hurt. A disproportionate number of those are within minority neighborhoods.”
ACAR leveraged a Consumer Advocacy Outreach Grant to launch a new awareness campaign about the economic impact of required POS inspections. Encouraged by past success with a similar campaign, they produced a prominent 8-page insert that appeared in the October/November 2022 issues of Cleveland Magazine and Akron Life Magazine, reaching a combined total readership of more than 260,000 local residents, while a digital campaign and boosted social media engaged residents online. Campaign content was informed by a recent University of Cincinnati study commissioned by Ohio REALTORS®. Personal testimonials from individuals whose attempts to buy or sell a house had been thwarted by the policy helped to illustrate the detrimental effects of the mandatory inspections. “Our members encounter these situations as they’re out working in their communities, and the stories that they brought us have become the most compelling aspect of our advocacy,” says McMillen.
These stories helped the insert copywriter to frame the situation as more than just an inconvenience and demonstrate that there are real world costs that come with bad policy: one would-be buyer found that the seller didn’t want to make the repairs required by the inspection, so the otherwise affordable purchase became out-of-reach. The mandate was also shown to limit the financing options of buyers seeking to take advantage of FHA loans. On the sales side, a man trying to sell his elderly father’s home had difficulty coming up with $6,000 to fix a driveway apron as required by the inspection – so the house remained unsold. These poignant examples put a face on the economic harm that the inspection mandates are effecting throughout the region.
An added benefit of the inserts, notes McMillen, is that ACAR has hard copies to use as compelling leave-behind material for meetings with elected officials and community thought leaders. “They’re easy-to-read and reveal how the required POS inspections affect constituents in their own back yards. It’s a very effective tool to have in our advocacy arsenal.”
Based on vendor numbers from the online ads, the reach of the digital campaign was also extensive, clocking in at close to 80K impressions. “Reaching the public was a huge step. Having a printed leave-behind is very helpful. All these elements stack up and make an impact as we attempt to systematically achieve rollbacks of the mandates. Our local officials are extremely thoughtful, careful, and methodical about taking any ordinance off the books, so it’s a slow process of trust-building, relationship building, and proving our value as the source of good information – including public opinion,” says McMillen.
“We are so grateful for the resources from the REALTOR® Party that have been helping us to educate the public and influence thinking around concepts like these,” she adds. “Policy change takes time, but we’re in it for the long haul.”
To learn more about how the Akron Cleveland Association of REALTORS® is working to dismantle barriers to homeownership and home sales throughout northeastern Ohio, contact Jamie McMillen, Vice President of Government Affairs, at email@example.com or 216.525.4834.